Thursday, January 27, 2011
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Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Aren't conservatives rednecks?
Depends on what you mean by redneck. If your definition of redneck is a person that lives in the southern United States, then I hate to alarm you, but there are liberals in the good ole south. If your definition of redneck is an intolerant, acid tongued, white male; hey, liberals meet that criteria too. However, if you intend redneck to mean a person that holds the government should have fiscal and social conservative responsibility, then yes, all conservatives are rednecks.
The "conservatives are rednecks" argument is nothing more than an ad-hominem, when the liberal is depleted of good arguments for their position. I say that because there are actual "rednecks" that are liberal democrats and conservative republicans; they're on both sides because the word redneck does not define a political position.
Aren't conservatives racist?
This is a terrible, terrible, terrible, spear that is thrown at conservatives. However, I won't say it's a stupid question because there aren't any stupid questions, just stupid answers. Conservatives are not guilty of this accusation at all because conservatives are for equal-opportunity and anti-welfare, irregardless of a person's ethnicity. Liberals, on the other hand, could be easily hit with the "racist spear," just look at affirmative action. Not that affirmative action is totally worthless, but it does discourage working hard and personal responsibility.
Aren't conservatives intolerant?
I think this is just another ad-hominem disguised as an argument. Look, a person can be intolerant regardless of party affiliation in my opinion. What we must do with this question is ask what tolerant means. Tolerant means showing respect for opinions of others, correct? Well, how come the conservative is blasted with the intolerant insult when the liberal isn't tolerant of the conservative's opinion? Could we be fair here? The conservative should not be labeled intolerant when the liberal is guilty of the same thing. Take the plank out of your eye before you try and pick the twig out of your opponent's eye.
Why do conservatives push their morals on me?
This is a fair question. People do not want morality shoved in their face, especially when they are guilty of committing an immoral action. This is a sensitive issue, but I'm willing to answer the question. Conservatives, for the most part, believe there is a moral standard in the universe and that living up to it is the best way to live a happy and full life. Now, we also recognize that people fall short of this moral standard, but that doesn't mean that there isn't a moral standard at all. Conservatives aren't unaware of man's shortcomings! Denial of the standard because man cannot live up to the standard just results in moral chaos or nihilism and neither are good for society.
Dinesh D'Souza sums up conservatism:
"Conservatives recognize that there are two principles in human nature—good and evil—and these are in constant conflict. Given the warped timber of humanity, conservatives seek a social structure that helps to bring out the best in human nature and suppress man’s lower or base impulses. Conservatives support capitalism because it is a way of steering our natural pursuit of self-interest toward the material betterment of society at large. Conservatives insist that there are evil regimes and destructive forces in the world that cannot be talked out of their nefarious objectives; force is an indispensable element of international relations. Finally conservatives support autonomy when it is attached to personal responsibility—when people are held accountable for their actions—but they also believe in the indispensability of moral incubators (the family, the church, civic institutions) that are aimed at instructing people to choose virtue over vice."1
That's why conservatives "push" their moral standard on others. However, it's not the conservative's moral standard, it's an objective moral standard recognized by everyone.
So, why am I conservative? I believe conservatives have an accurate understanding of the human nature. One's understanding of human nature constructs one's worldview. In my opinion, conservatives have it right (no pun intended), not only for me, but for America. When following the evidence, you can see that conservative policies can not only produce a good society, but also reach liberal goals of peace and social justice.
1. Dinesh D'Souza, Letters to a Young Conservative (Basic Books, 2002), pg.
Monday, January 17, 2011
After reading S.E. Cupp's article "The arrogance of the atheists: They batter believers in religion with smug certainty" (she's subtle isn't she) I can't disagree with her. Cupp, an atheist herself, is a little upset with the new atheists approach in dealing with the ultimate question: Is there more to life than this? Here's what she says about her father becoming a theist:
"As a longtime atheist, I was a little surprised. But eventually I came to be relieved by this development. While my friends' fathers were buying flashy sports cars and exchanging their wives for models, my own father was turning inward and asking: Is there more to life than this?
I was also proud of him for becoming a student again. As I watched him pore over C.S. Lewis, Lee Strobel and even neoatheist thinkers such as Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens, I thought it amazing that he still wanted to learn something new.
It was a revelation I'd experience over and over again - meeting faithful believers and discovering that, no matter how long they'd been in the fold, many were still on a dogged quest for spiritual knowledge."
Cupp realizes that the serious Christian thinker is always learning and not static in his pursuit of God and truth. Many do not know this, but it's something that is slowly coming to public knowledge thanks to the efforts of men like Alvin Plantinga, William Lane Craig, and many other Christian thinkers. As an atheist, Cupp was proud of her father for dealing with the tough questions that Christians face.
How does Cupp feel about the attitudes of the new atheists? Does she think that they are seriously trying engage theism and learn about it? Or does she realize that they are trying to belittle theism and trash it?
"Which brings me to the problem with modern atheism, embodied by the likes of Harris and Hitchens, authors of "The End of Faith" and "God Is Not Great," respectively. So often it seems like a conversation ender, not a conversation starter. And the loudest voices of today's militant atheism, for all their talk of rational thought, don't seem to want to do too much thinking at all. As James Wood wrote in The New Yorker, "The new atheists do not speak to the millions of people whose form of religion is far from the embodied certainties of contemporary literalism. Indeed, it is a settled assumption of this kind of atheism that there are no intelligent religious believers."
What spiritual quest are they on, except to put an abrupt end to those like my father's? For them, the science is settled, the data are conclusive and the book (no, not the Good Book) has been written. Time for everyone else to pack up and move on to other business, like, presumably, accumulating wealth and fulminating at the sight of the nearest Christmas tree.
The militant atheist wants nothing more than to spoil the believer's spiritual journey. That's both meanspirited and radically unenlightened.
Though more than 95% of the world finds some meaning in faith, God-hating comic Bill Maher shrugs this off as a "neurological disorder." His version of a quest for knowledge was a series of scathing jokes at the faithfuls' expense in the documentary "Religulous."
The latest incarnation of the thought-eschewing secularist is American Atheists spokesman Dave Silverman, who sums up the argument this way on atheistnexus.org: "Religion is my b****." He has also tweeted, "Yes it is a myth. Deal with it. All delusions are myths."
It's these snarky and condescending rejections, not of faith itself but of those who profess it, that reflect a total unwillingness to learn something new about human nature, the world around us and even of science itself. While the neoatheists pay only cursory attention to dismantling arguments for God, they spend most of their time painting his followers as uncultured rubes. The fact that religion has inexplicably persisted, even despite Copernicus, Darwin and the Enlightenment, doesn't seem to have much sociological meaning for them.
The truth is, folks like Maher and Silverman don't want to know about actual belief - in fact, they are much more certain about the nature of the world than most actual believers, who understand that a measure of doubt is necessary for faith. They want to focus on the downfall of a gay pastor or the Nativity scene at a mall."
I can't add anything to Cupp's correct understanding of the new atheists' material. They don't seem to want to meet and discuss the important questions in life, but they do seem intent on destroying faith with sophomoric jokes and ad hominem fallacies. You can read S.E. Cupp's full article by clicking here. If Cupp keeps an open mind and continues on her quest she'll more than likely find what she is looking for.
Saturday, January 15, 2011
I have finally found the time to finish covering William Lane Craig's moral argument for God's existence. The second premise, Objective moral values and duties exist, is something most people will agree upon, those that don't are hard-line relativist, but they take such an extreme position (because you have to) that most are repulsed by it. This second premise, at first seems controversial, however Craig says in his debates with atheist philosophers he finds that nobody denies it. Surveys taken at universities reveal that professors are more apt to believe in objective moral values than students, and that philosophy professors are more apt to believe in objective moral values than professors in general!1
Craig relates the our moral experience to our experience of our five senses. He says, "I believe what my five senses tell me, namely, that there is a world of physical objects out there. My senses are not infallible, but that doesn't lead me to think that there is no external world around me. Similarly, in the absence of some reason to distrust my moral experience, I should accept what it tells me, namely, that some things are objectively good or evil, right or wrong."2 This is a good comparison. Thinking of our moral experience as an experience of our five senses helps to show the objectivity of morality. Everyone shares the five senses experience, just as everyone shares the morale experience. Wait a minute, some people don't have the full functionality of their five senses, so the comparison is flawed, correct? Not so. I'll let Craig explain.
"Most of us recognize that sexual abuse of another person is wrong. Actions like rape, torture, and child abuse aren't just socially unacceptable behavior - they're moral abominations. By the same token, love, generosity, and self-sacrifice are really good. People who fail to see this are just handicapped, the moral equivalent of someone who is physically blind, and there's no reason to let their impairment call into question what we see clearly." 3
So what about relativists? Shouldn't we listen to them? Something may be true for you, but not for me. Isn't that a good rule to live by? Although people give lip service to relativism, many very quickly I might add, agree to objective moral values and duties. A good quote by Richard Dawkins explains relativists quite well, " Show me a relativist at 30,000 feet and I'll show you a hypocrite." 4 Obviously, the relativist knows the Western mathematicians and engineers have got their sums right and that there is truth. I say this because relativist dismiss the fact that there is objective truth. Philosopher Stanley Fish and Richard Rorty assert that science does not describe "the world out there"; rather, it is a Western cultural construction that has no more claim to reality than anyone else's cultural construction. Fish even suggested, in a New York Times article, that the rules of science are just as arbitrary as the rules of baseball.5 In spite of this belief, I'm sure Mr. Fish and Rorty fly in airplanes, which shows that one cannot hold to relativism very long.
Produce a few illustrations to a relativist and let them decide for themselves if there are objective moral values and duties. Craig gives great illustrations:
"Ask what they think of the Hindu practice of suttee (burning widows alive on the funeral pyres of their husbands) or the ancient Chinese custom of crippling women for life by tightly binding their feet from childhood to resemble lotus blossoms...Ask them what they think of the Crusades or the Inquisition. Ask them if they think it's all right for Catholic priests to sexually abuse little boys and for the church to try to cover it up." 6 There are many more illustrations to give in addition to the ones Craig mentioned, e.g., Nazi training camps, cheating on one's spouse, spouse abuse. If you're dealing with a honest person, I'm sure that person will agree that there are objective moral values and duties.
Do we have any reason to distrust our moral experience? Some have claimed that, "the sociobiological account of the origins of morality undermines our moral experience." 7 To put simply, according to that account our moral beliefs are the result of evolution and social conditioning, or self-interest for the preservation of our society. That account does nothing to undermine the truth of our moral experience. Craig says "For the truth of a belief is independent of how you came to hold that belief." 8 In other words, you may have acquired your moral beliefs through your parents, a fortune cookie, or by a book and they could still be true. If God exists, then objective moral values and duties exist, regardless of the vehicle used to learn about them. Craig writes, "The sociobiological account at best proves that our perception of moral values and duties has evolved. But if moral values are gradually discovered, not invented, then our gradual and fallible perception of those values no more undermines their objective reality than our gradual, fallible perception of the physical world undermines its objective reality." 9
OK, maybe the sociobiological account doesn't undermine the truth of moral beliefs, but our justification for holding the moral beliefs. Well, Craig mentions two problems for that objection to premise 2.
"First, it assumes that atheism is true. If there is no God, then our moral beliefs are selected by evolution solely for their survival value, not for their truth." 10 Fine, I agree with that. In fact, Craig pressed this issue in defending premise 1. If God does not exist, then our moral beliefs are illusory, but no one firmly holds to that belief. Our moral experience tells us that rape is wrong, mass murdering is wrong, that punching someone in the face is wrong, and so on. However, if one truly stands on the sociobiological account, then rape is just acting in a socially unfashionable way, like a man belching at the dinner table. That action is not wrong and in fact does not act in a negative way toward our species. Rape actually guarantees that your genes will make it into the next generation. You see, that's no reason to think that the sociobiological account is true. If God exists, it's likely He would want us to have fundamentally correct moral beliefs and so would either guide the evolutionary process to produce such beliefs or else instill them in us. 11
Second, Craig writes that the objection is self-defeating. Given naturalism, all of our beliefs (not just moral beliefs) are the result of evolution and social conditioning. So, following the evolutionary account honestly would lead you to be skeptical about knowledge in general. This is self-defeating, Craig writes, "because then we should be skeptical about the evolutionary account itself, since it, too, is the product of evolution and social conditioning! The objection undermines itself." 12
Craig finishes the argument by saying that we're justified in thinking that objective moral values and duties do exist. From the two premises, the natural conclusion is that God exists. The moral argument compliments the cosmological argument by showing us the moral nature of the Creator and Designer of the universe. It's my belief that the moral argument is the most effective argument for God's existence because it's something we all share. Moral values are not arbitrary, they flow from God's nature and thus have a purpose and direction for our lives.
To answer the question, "Can we be good without God?" no, we can't be good without God. If we can be good in some measure, then it must follow that God exists. 13
Evolution Can't Explain Morality an article by Greg Koukl
Euthyphro Argument. Reasonable Faith podcast
On Guard: Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision by William Lane Craig is the finest source for further exploring his arguments for God's existence.
1. William Lane Craig, On Guard: Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2010), pg. 140
2. ibid, pg. 140
3. ibid, pg. 141
4. Dinesh D'Souza, Letters to a Young Conservative (Basic Books, 2002), pg. 109
5. ibid, pg. 108
6. William Lane Craig, On Guard: Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2010), pg. 141
7. ibid, pg. 142
8. ibid, pg. 143
9. ibid, pg. 143
10. ibid, pg. 143
11. ibid, pg. 143
12. ibid, pg. 144
13. ibid, pg. 144
note: I know I'm covering William Lane Craig's Moral Argument in this post, so why include references from D'Souza? Well, the information from Letters to a Young Conservative complimented the relativist portion of Craig's argument.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Why does he make predictions? Doesn't he think he is right? I'm sure he feels that he is correct in making the predictions. However, the problem is dating predictions. When you set a date, then you better be 100% sure that it's going to happen because when it doesn't, then you lose my trust and the trust of many others (I'm not speaking of loyal followers here). Also, these things, like Robertson's predictions, are what atheists, agnostics, and skeptics notice and really put on display to undermine Christianity.
The Centurion, a blogger for Pyromaniacs, wrote an open letter to Pat Robertson. The following is an excerpt:
"Now, what really bothers me about this isn't the money-making because a brother has to eat. If you and your conscience can spend your time doing this sort of thing, and people will pay you for it, it's a free country and people make money all kinds of ways.
But it does bother me that you leverage this aspect of your career to do other things as well. See: unlike Benny Hinn who just claims to be God's special Jedi, and we should get some of his anointing by sending him money, you encourage a horrible image of what faith in Christ looks like because your view of salvation is tied to how things look right now.
For example, in your book the people of Haiti were ravaged by disaster because they have made a "pact with the devil". Now, whether or not the folk religion of Haiti is idolatry (and it is), I think there's a problem with matching one-to-one their idolatry with their suffering.
On the one hand, it seems to say that other forms of idolatry aren't as bad. You know: the idolatry of celebrity which is evident on CBN doesn't seem to catch God's umbrage -- rather, next year will be another good year for CBN and its affiliated parachurch businesses. The idolatry of statism -- albeit conservative statism -- from preachers like yourself who put political victory over Gospel clarity and sincerity somehow slips under God's wrath's radar. And somehow the idolatry of speaking for God when God hath not said also seems to be outside the scope of natural disaster, as the videos above and the track record of those predictions plainly demonstrate.
And on the other hand, what about those actually suffering for the sake of Christ? This is the issue which I think cuts a little deeper -- because today there are Christians dying for their faith, but in your predictions only people in league with the Devil will suffer. I mean: we can expect as much from careless people who think the Devil is a sort of schtick we can use when we use religious language, but you're allegedly a godly man. You're allegedly someone with a deep faith. Is it your view that Christians who suffer are outside the will of God? It can't be that -- you wouldn't shame martyrs with that sort of nonchalant caricature of what it means to live in God's good graces. Would you?
So here are my suggestions for you in 2011, and you can take them for whatever they are worth to you:
1. Repent of your false prophecies.
This is an easy one as it wouldn't take 10 minutes to start and it would only require you to eliminate this 15-minute segment from your network each New Year. Just come out and say it: "For years I have claimed to be speaking for God, and I have not been speaking for God. I have been speaking from my own intentions and biases and thoughts, and I was wrong to assign those to God's will, and God's Word. I have sinned against God, and against my fellow believers, and I ask God's mercy and their forgiveness." You could do it -- and a giant swath of Christians would breathe a sigh of relief that you are not actually crazy or delusional but rather concerned that Jesus finally be glorified.
2. Reconsider the Gospel.
Here's what I'm thinking: rather than use your life's work network to promote every new fad and spiritual quack who will say the name "Jesus" or put a Bible verse on his product, schedule some prime time to the historical fact that Jesus lived a real life, and that his intention was to die for the sake of the sins of those who would believe in him. Jesus didn't die to make us sooth-sayers, or Congressmen, or influential entertainment executives: He died because we are all distracted from God by being sooth-sayers, and Congressmen, and influential executives, and so on. Reconsider that the Gospel did not make Paul rich but rather abjectly poor -- and he evangelized the Roman world without so much as a blog or a decent pair of shoes. Reconsider that the Gospel changes what prosperity looks like. And then repent of what you have made out of the Gospel.
3. Get serious about the actual Word of God.
I am sure you have read it -- the Bible. You have read the Bible. The problem is that you have not read it for what it says. You have spent most of your public life parsing prophecies so that you can make political points and cause your viewers to panic because the end is near. But it's funny that you are not in a panic that the end is near: you're storing up riches in storehouses, and still scaring others with prophecies of economic and political disaster. You know: the one time Jesus stood before someone of political power, he said, "My kingdom is not of this earth;" and when Paul stood before Festus and Agrippa, he didn't lecture them on the legitimacy of Roman policies -- he preached to him the Gospel in order that Agrippa would be changed, and saved. You are not like those founders of this faith, Pat. You would do better to be like them, and I call you to repent about your attitude toward the word of God.
I hope this note finds you in God's good graces so that you will be inclined by His conviction and Spirit to make your life right. It's not too late, and you will bless many by your change."
I think the Centurion makes a good case and his open letter to Pat Robertson is not angry, nor unjustified, rather it's in the same mold of Paul when he addressed problems with churches in his letters: clear, direct, yet loving. This letter, while being direct, is also filled with concern. The rest of the letter can be read in its entirety by clicking here.
Want to read more on Christianity and the supernatural?
How Do Spiritual Gifts Operate? This is a transcript of a sermon by John Macarthur. If you don't like to read, you can also download the mp3 and listen to it.
Acts and the Voice of God - Greg Koukl on prophecy.
Tuesday, January 4, 2011
"Apparently, Craig is not only affirming heresy but is a compromiser who is not committed to the truth, who denies that the existence of universal sinfulness and that the need for salvation is an essential Christian belief.
This own goal demonstrates not just an alarming inability for many Christians to read in context but also some overweening ignorance about theology (not to mention an alarming lack of charity for the man who is internationally renowned and respected for publicly defending the faith by lay people and the academy alike.)
Let us take a look at the offending paragraph, William Lane Craig wrote:
As for your two moral objections, the first is an objection to the doctrine of original sin. But once more, that doctrine is not universally affirmed by Christians and is not essential to the Christian faith.
At a glance, sitting by itself in a Facebook status update, in a tweet or out of context on a blog, it may well look like Craig is saying that the doctrine of original sin is not essential to the Christian faith. But now let’s look at it again in context:
As for your two moral objections, the first is an objection to the doctrine of original sin. [Emphasis added]
The “first” what? The first objection that the atheist Luke, who asked the question Craig is answering, set out at the top of the page:
4) God Determines that Adams sin is transmutable down to every single person that will ever exist. (Moral objection 1: The sins of the father are logically not related to the son in any way shape or form)
Right, now back to the paragraph:
As for your two moral objections, the first is an objection to the doctrine of original sin. But once more, that doctrine is not universally affirmed by Christians and is not essential to the Christian faith. So don’t let that be a stumbling block for you. What is essential to Christian faith is that all men are sinners and in need of God’s forgiveness and redemption. I’m sure you’d recognize your own moral shortcomings and failures, Luke. So don’t get hung up on Adam’s sin. It’s your own sin you need to deal with. (As for the doctrine, its viability will depend on the viability of imputation. We often know of cases where one person is held responsible for the actions of another because the one person represents the other or serves as a proxy acting on the other’s behalf. Maybe Adam was our representative before God.)
If Craig meant to convey that the idea that we are all innately sinful and as such need Christ’s salvation, is not essential to the Christian faith then why does he say in the very next line “What is essential to Christian faith is that all men are sinners and in need of God’s forgiveness and redemption”? [Emphasis original] He has just said that all of us are sinful and need Christ’s salvation!
In the line after this he writes, “I’m sure you’d recognize your own moral shortcomings and failures, Luke.” Where does Craig get this surety from that Luke has moral shortcomings and failures?
In case you need more evidence that this is not what Craig meant, then see the next line “So don’t get hung up on Adam’s sin. It’s your own sin you need to deal with.” Again, Craig seems pretty confident that Luke has sinned and needs a solution.
Having realised now that Craig cannot have meant to convey a denial of universal sinfulness or the need for salvation – he said in sentence 4 that this “is essential to Christian faith” – we need to look at what he did say, what he meant.
By employing some helpful techniques I use for analysing difficult legal passages and finding coherent solutions to prima facie statutory ambiguities we see that the vital words are “that doctrine.” What does the “that” in “that doctrine” in the second sentence refer to?
Obviously, many people are reading it as referring to the term “original sin” (and their understanding as to what that term means – more on that from Matt in clue three). Now this is one way of reading it – read only the bold font:
As for your two moral objections, the first is an objection to the doctrine of original sin. But once more, that doctrine is not universally affirmed by Christians and is not essential to the Christian faith. So don’t let that be a stumbling block for you. [Emphasis added]
On this reading, Craig is saying, “The doctrine of original sin [as understood by the outraged readers] is not universally affirmed by Christians.”
But as clue one showed us, this is a rather contradictory way of reading it.
To read the paragraph this way we would have to read Craig as denying that universal sinfulness and the need for salvation are an essential Christian doctrine in the second sentence but then spending sentences 4-7 affirming universal sinfulness and the need for salvation and their place as an essential doctrine within Christianity!
Craig hold two PhD’s and is a world class analytic philosopher known for many things but making overt contradictions in the same paragraph, side by side, is not one of them.
This should tell us something – especially in light of the other possible way of reading the “that doctrine” in context; again read only the bold font:
As for your two moral objections, the first is an objection to the doctrine of original sin.
4) God Determines that Adams sin is transmutable down to every single person that will ever exist. (Moral objection 1: The sins of the father are logically not related to the son in any way shape or form)
But once more, that doctrine is not universally affirmed by Christians and is not essential to the Christian faith. So don’t let that be a stumbling block for you. [Emphasis added]
On this reading Craig is saying “the doctrine of original sin … the sins of the father … is not universally affirmed by Christians.”
Craig starts his paragraph by stating “As for your two moral objections, the first is an objection to…” In doing this he makes it clear what the subject of his paragraph is: it is the first of Luke’s moral objections, Luke’s clause 4). Luke is asking specifically about “the sins of the father”, the idea that “God Determines that Adams sin is transmutable down to every single person that will ever exist.” Craig is answering this specific objection. This means that when Craig then writes, “But once more, that doctrine is not universally affirmed by Christians and is not essential to the Christian faith,” it is clear that by “that doctrine” he does not have in mind the idea that we are not all innately sinful and as such do not need Christ’s salvation – he is talking about something else, the specific doctrine that Luke raised."The rest of the post can be read by clicking here.
In my opinion, I didn't pick up on any minimalist Christianity implications in Craig's response to Luke. I think Craig was simply showing Luke that one doesn't have to immediately understand original sin to be a Christian.